Borough passes resolution to consider Rt. 92

Environmentalists say proposed road endangers wetlands

Jocelyn Hanamirian
Princetonian Contributor
Daily Princetonian, Oct. 13, 2004

The Princeton Borough Council passed a resolution last night calling for a roundtable discussion about the proposed Route 92, after hearing pleas from three area residents and a representative from the Princeton Environmental Commission.

Councilwoman Wendy Benchley urged reconsideration of the resolution the Council previously passed supporting the project, but found herself the sole advocate of such a move.

The Route 92 project, which could cost upwards of $700 million, proposes the construction of a 6.7-mile limited-access toll road to serve as an east-west connector between New Jersey Turnpike Interchange 8A, south of New Brunswick, and Route 1.

The new road would "reduce congestion on Route 1 and provide easier access to the turnpike," said Joe Orlando, spokesperson for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

Until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves the proposal, however, the Turnpike Authority cannot proceed with the plans for the route, which has been in the works for at least a decade.

In July, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a letter advising against construction because of potential adverse effects on nearby wetlands.

The letter stated that "viable alternatives have been dismissed."

Princeton Borough Mayor Joe O'Neill explained that the new road will divert traffic heading south from New York away from Princeton and Plainsboro.

But South Brunswick Township, which would be most affected by the construction, opposes the project, as does the Princeton Environmental Commission, which supports the EPA's statement.

"In the long run, we need a road that would be a Princeton bypass," O'Neill said. "That would take trucks that are going through Princeton and put them on a limited access highway."

Ten acres of wetlands would be filled in under the current Route 92 plan, which would also divide a larger, currently contiguous wetland, Simpson said.

Simpson urged protection of the wetlands, explaining that they are a breeding ground for juvenile fish and animals and a natural resource for water filtration.

The construction would cause still more harm to the wetlands indirectly, she added, citing the issues of road runoff and light pollution.

The environmental commission's letter proposed that the existing Route 522, which runs parallel to the proposed Route 92, be connected to the turnpike as a less environmentally damaging alternative.

Arguing that not enough voices were being heard in the decision process, the letter recommended holding a roundtable like the one held to discuss Millstone Bypass — a move the Council endorsed last night.

Orlando of the Turnpike Authority said, "There are still a number of [alternate] possibilities for the route and the Authority is considering these options."

Princetonian senior writer Melisa Gao contributed reporting to this article.